Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
3 days ago
FEATHERSTONE LIONS 18 CRUSADERS COLTS 24
Crusaders Colts made it two wins out of two in their inaugural Conference National season on Saturday, beating last year's champions Featherstone Lions 24-18 in a hard fought match in Yorkshire.
It was the fourth win in a row for Crusaders sides against those from Featherstone and like the previous three, it was an action packed game full of high drama.
The home side showed why they were champions with two quick tries. First from Mark Tepper in the fifth minute followed by a second from winger Clifton Richardson from the set following kick-off. Danny Giles converted both and Lions were 12-0 up in under 10 minutes.
But Crusaders fought their way back. Gary Williams was first over the line on the quarter hour before man of the match Tom Burnell capped a fine performance by running through for the Colts' second. Lloyd White kicked the extras on each occasion and the scores were level.
Lions were their own worst enemies during the first half constantly turning the ball over in the tackle count, and the Welsh side took advantage, handled the ball a lot better than the Lions and went into the break with an 18-12 lead after Lee Williams ran in under the sticks. The home side protested that there was a forward pass leading to the try but the referee waved away their advances. White kept up his 100% record with the boot.
A second Lee Williams try on the hour, again converted by White, made things safe for the Colts before a nervy finish which saw the Lions grab a try back from John Smith with Giles converting once again.
Crusaders won the game in the last ten minutes and proved that a good side has to be outstanding in both attack and defence. Lions had two tries disallowed in that period and were held up on the line on numerous occasions but the Welsh, thanks to some remarkable defending, held on.
Special commendation also has to go to the goalkickers. Both had a 100% record despite a strong blustery wind throughout the game.
Crusaders coach Dan Clements said: "I was happy with result especially as we were up against it in the last ten minutes. We're all looking forward to our first home game next week against Gateshead, this win has set us up nicely for that."
The next episode of the high drama series that is Crusaders v Featherstone is on Friday 2nd May when Celtic Crusaders take on Featherstone Rovers in a Co-operative National League One at the Brewery Field in Bridgend (kick-off 7.30pm).
LIONS 1 Adam Hinchcliffe 2 Clifton Richardson 3 Byron Cooper 4 Steve Froggatt 5 Rich Frankland 6 Lee Senior 7 Danny Giles 8 Kris Smith 9 Dean Gamble 10 Mark Tepper 11 Paul Watson 12 John Smith 13 Craig Barker Subs: 14 Jamie Nicholson 15 Matt Godber 16 Mark Richardson 17 Dean Tucker
Tries: Tepper (5), Richardson (8), J.Smith (68) Goals: White 3/3
COLTS 1 Ashley Bateman 2 Elliot Kear 3 Gary Williams 4 Lee Williams 5 Owen Lewis 6 Lloyd White 7 Aled James 8 Jamie I'Anson 9 Tom Burnell 10 Philippe Gardent 11 Geraint Davies 12 Ben Flower 13 Chris Vitalini Subs: 14 Gil Dudson 15 Lewis Mills 16 Mark Wool 17 Chris Holcombe
Tries: G.Williams (15), Burnell (22), L.Williams (29, 60) Goals: White 4/4
Men of the Match: Lions - John Smith, Colts - Tom Burnell Scoring Sequence: 6-0, 12-0, 12-6, 12-12, 18-12, 24-12, 24-18 Referee: Andy Sweet
Game Breaker: The Colts' outstanding defence in the last ten minutes. Lions had their chances to level things but couldn't break through the strong Welsh pack.
Game Star: Tom Burnell was outstanding in both attack and defence always difficult to deal with. He controlled the ruck and had good distribution throughout.